Chardonnay polarizes opinion more than almost any other wine. Punters either love it or hate it, with little middle ground. But I implore you to give it another crack, especially if you haven’t tried it recently, because Chardonnay is having a moment.
Chardonnay originated in the Burgundy region of France and is/was known as White Burgundy (not to be confused with Burgundy, which is what they call Pinot Noir). It also flourished in the Chablis region where the lean, acidic style made its name. You may also know Chardonnay for being one of the three major varietals that go into Champagne (or sparkling wine), alongside Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
These days, Chardonnay is found everywhere due to the ease with which it grows. As a fairly neutral and adaptable grape, it can take on a variety of different characteristics. You’ll often find that Chardonnay is a product of the environment in which it’s produced. Variations between regions are distinct.
Once upon a time, Chardonnay was thick, syrupy and buttery. Drinking it required real effort (and a strong stomach). It was this style that gave Chardonnay a bad name for years and turned people off. But not anymore…
Chardonnay exists on a spectrum, and personal preference will determine which end you fall on. When produced in cooler climates, Chardonnay tends to take on the flavours of apples, pears and white stone fruit. It’s lean, punchy, dry and acidic. You have this style to thank for making Chardonnay uber trendy again.
When produced in slighter warmer regions, a different flavor profile emerges. This Chardonnay is more citrusy, with yellow peaches, melons and other tropical fruits hitting the front of the palate. You may even detect bananas and pineapple in the mix.
The oaky, buttery, slippery characteristic you find in some Chardonnay comes from time spent in oak barrels. The effect is magnified with newer wood, as it imparts greater flavor on the wine. Personally, while I enjoy both ends of the spectrum, I’d reach for cooler climate Chardonnay with my hard earned.
This is a no-brainer: chicken. Especially when it’s roasted. If you’re looking for a go-to food match that won’t disappoint, chicken brings out the best in Chardonnay, particularly when it has been chilled and allowed to return to near room temperature. If a good old roast doesn’t get you going, try it with chicken salad, or even seafood.